Cheap international flights from Australia: Why they are the cheapest they've ever been, and the best time to book

According to a survey just released, the cost of economy-class air travel out of Australia has never been lower.

The survey, conducted by Expedia, looks at the price of air tickets from Australia to eight destinations over the month of January 2017 compared with the same month in 2011 and 2013. Among the key findings:

· Average airline ticket prices for many routes in 2017 are lower than the cost of flying the same routes in 2013 and 2011.

· Flights from Australia to London are approximately 20 per cent cheaper in 2017 compared with 2011

· Flights from Australia to Los Angeles are more than 15 per cent cheaper today than in 2011

According to Expedia, reasons for the falling ticket prices include increased competition, lower fuel prices and new low cost carriers entering the market. Increased capacity on many routes mean supply is running ahead of demand, forcing carriers to cut prices to fill seats.

Expedia also points out that flights typically get cheaper at this time of year as carriers compete to fill seats for the peak Europe travel season.

The declining cost of air travel becomes even more acute when you factor in the average weekly earnings for Australian workers for those three years. Today it takes an adult full-time worker on average earnings less than 5½ days to earn enough pre-tax dollars to pay for a return ticket to London. Back in 2011 that same worker needed to work more than 7½ days to buy a ticket on the kangaroo route.

Commenting on the reasons for the price decline, Expedia Managing Director (Australia) Michael Pearson says "Overall flight prices have continued to decline over the past 10 years suggesting 2017 could be a banner year for travellers taking to the skies."

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"This confluence of circumstances – more seats, lower prices, flights to more destinations and lower fuel prices – is providing an exceptional offering for Australian travellers wanting to experience the other side of the world."

Although airfares might be in the bargain basement, they're not the only big cost component in a holiday. How can travellers get a great deal right across the holiday spectrum?

"Book a holiday package by bundling your flight and hotel together," suggests Pearson.

"Book well in advance for that dream European holiday. Keeping an eye on when early bird sale fares are released and selecting a flight that departs in the middle of the week can save hundreds of dollars. Also, fly into less popular airports. Rather than flying into London, Budapest will save you 15 per cent, Milan 13 per cent."

Is there a best time to book to get the best deal?

"Generally, the best deals on flights are on tickets purchased on weekends, Sunday in particular, more than 21 days in advance," says Pearson. "In most parts of the world, trips with Saturday-night stays are priced at least cost."

Another nugget from the Expedia data suggests the cheapest months to book flights from Australia:

January – Paris

February – Bangkok, Bali, London and Los Angeles

March – New York

November – Rome

See also: The best time to book a cheap flight

Skyscanner Australia has a different opinion. Skyscanner's recently released 2017 "Best Time to Book" data analyses more than 250 million flight prices over the last three years to come up with a data-based strategy to getting the most out of your flying dollars.

That data suggests the best time to book varies depending on your origin and destination. In the case of a Sydney to London flight, Skyscanner identifies six months in advance as the cheapest time to book. If you're flying from Melbourne to London you could leave your booking as late as three months before flight time to get a similar discount. If you're flying Melbourne to Bali, a flight booked either six months or two months in advance could save you up to 18 per cent.

Skyscanner also has a handy Best Time to Book Tool. Key in your origin and destination and the website tells you what percentage you could save by booking however many months in advance.

Australian travellers in particular benefit more than most from low airfares, according to data from Rome2rio's 2016 Global Flight Price Ranking. Rome2rio is a Melbourne-based global, multimodal search specialist, a cutting-edge tool for finding prices and times of A to B travel using various means of transport.

Unlike the Expedia data, which looks at the price of air travel on flights originating from Australia, the Rome2rio puts the spotlight on prices individual airlines charge per kilometre, and the airlines that Australians use to travel overseas are among the price leaders.

For example Scoot comes in at number four on the least-cost ladder with Air Asia hot on its heels. Air Pacific and Qantas are placed eight and nine respectively, and Emirates and Etihad are both in the top 20. Leading Asian Airlines are in the top 50 but you need to go 90 places down the table before a major American carrier makes an appearance, American Airlines, with a ticket price per kilometre almost double that of Qantas'.

Will air ticket prices continue to fall? Evidence from the USA suggests not. Delta, the second largest carrier in the USA, expects to increase prices this year by about 2 per cent, following a price drop of around 5 per cent across the board for all the US majors in 2016.

The International Air Transport Association expects the global airline industry to make a net profit in 2017 of $US29.8 billion. This represents a net profit margin of 4.1 per cent, and comes off the back of an expected net profit for the industry of $US35.6 for 2016. If profit margins remain healthy and competition vigorous, any airline that raises prices on key routes is going to feel major pain.

Confused? Me too, but the take-away is obvious. There's never been a better time to fly away.

Flight prices compared for 2011, 2013 and 2017 correct as of 2 February 2017, based on average ticket prices on Expedia.com.au, comparing prices from 1st January 2017 – 30th January 2017 with same period in 2011 and 2013

See also: Five ways you can get upgraded on your next flight

See also: How to travel the world on $50 a day

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